Jenna Marrion (from left)

Jenna Marrion (from left)

Vernon Panthers give PIT send-off to old gym

Vernon Panthers host final PIT Classic senior AA girls basketball tourney in old gym.

While they are using paint to adjust the basketball NBA key lines mistakenly installed at the new gym, a dozen senior girls teams will close out the old gym in the annual VSS Panther Invitational Tournament (PIT).

The senior girls hoops classic, co-hosted by the Kalamalka Lakers, includes some of the top AA and A teams in the province.

Vernon is ranked No. 3 in the AA poll and opens against the George Elliot Coyotes of Lake Country today at 10:30 a.m. The cost to attend is a non-perishable food item or loonie with all proceeds going to the student leadership Christmas food hamper.

“It will be bitter-sweet as this is the last PIT Classic in the old Panther Pit prior to moving to the new school,” said VSS coach Lonny Mazaruk. “There have been some epic senior girls baketball games over the past decade. Bobby Mitchell and myself have nothing but great memories in this gym but it’s time to retire the old and move into the new.

“We jokingly have told other coaches that we purposely let other teams shoot from the corner closest to the gym entrance because we estimate that it is about five inches lower than the floor under the basket.”

This year’s Panthers have a nice combination of skill, size and athleticism, and are led by their five seniors (Madison Sawka, Sage Blundell, Quinsy Leier, Jenna Marrion, and Mary Rice) who will be leaned on to provide leadership after finishing just off the podium in fourth at last year’s AA playdowns.

The Panthers warmed up for the PIT Classic by ambushing Pleasant Valley 84-16 in league play Wednesday night.

Blundell brought down 22 points, while Marrion supplied 21 points and eight rebounds. Rookie Ashtyn McKenzie sank a dozen points and recorded four rebounds, while Rice added 11 points.

The Lakers, coached by former Team Canada centre Reni Dolcetti, who is retiring this year, open versus the Okanagan Mission Huskies at 10:30 a.m. in their gym.

The Lakers, who have a few players making the transition from a provincial AA title in volleyball, begin the season as an honourable mention.

Other ranked teams attending are the Sa-Hali Sabres of Kamloops (No. 8 AA), the Princeton Rebels (No. 4 A) and the Immaculata Mustangs of Kelowna (No. 5 A). The Holy Cross Crusaders of Surrey hold down the top-ranked spot in AA.

The Fulton Maroons battle the Sabres at 12:20 p.m. today at Kal. Playoffs start Saturday at 9 a.m. with the final slated for 5:45 p.m. at VSS.

Dale Olson’s senior AA boys slammed the Seaton Sonics 81-24 in league play Wednesday night behind 36 points, eight boards and nine assists from Mike Rouault.

Tye Kitzman chipped in with 10 points for Fulton, who finished third at the South Okanagan Hornets tournament last weekend. Rouault made the all-star team.

Austin Richardson provided 18 points and a dozen rebounds as Fulton opened the North Zone season wth a 70-47 win over Kal.

In Grade 8 girls league play Monday night, the Panthers downed the Lakers 56-12.

The Lakers were just getting started in their season, while the Panthers had played six games in two tournaments.

Mikaela Pfannschmidt canned 14 points for VSS, while Brianna Falk flushed a dozen and Wynne Kanester sank 10. Megan Wiebe added eight points, with Taryn Kreeft and Reilly Lorenson dropping six points apiece.

The Baby Panthers went 1-2 in the Kamloops tournament last weekend, icing Sa-Hali 55-29 before losing 54-28 to KLO Cougars of Kelowna and falling 28-25 to St. Ann’s Crusaders of Kamloops.

VSS coach Clint Kanester is proud of the development he has seen over the last two weeks.

“We have a lot of height, which we plan to use to our advantage,” said Kanester. “The girls have worked hard and we are seeing great advancement in all of the players. This should be an exciting season.”

The Panthers are co-coached by Howie Falk, Michele Wiebe and Tracey Lorenson.

The eight-team Fulton Junior Boys Classic opens today with VSS tangling with the South Kamloops Titans at 5 p.m. and the Maroons going up against the Valleyview Vikings of Kamloops at 6:30.

The Kelowna Owls, Salmon Arm Golds, Pen-High Lakers and Golden Eagles are also entered. Games resume Saturday at 8 a.m. with the final scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

In other senior AA girls play Wednesday night, Samantha Ferreir collected 19 points as Fulton iced the Revelstoke Rams 55-48.

Hana Ouchi provided eight points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Maroons, while Emma Miller earned eight points and four boards.

Danielle Olson added six points, seven rebounds and seven assists, while Shaina Banta had seven points and Annette Christian registered five points and four rebounds.

Rick Serafin’s crew finished second in the George Elliot tournament last weekend.

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